Ho-hum, another Starsailor album. You’d have thought the Chorley quartet would have taken the hint and packed it in long ago. Apparently, though, the prospect of being sold at £7.87 by supermarkets who will subsequently pick the album’s corpse for advertising background music was just too tempting. Can you blame them? Yes. Yes, you can.
Inevitably, of course, there’ll be a few deluded critics who flagellate themselves with that most tired of music mantras: ‘a return to form’. But what form are we talking about? In 2001, the nation’s music press suffered an uncontrollable fit of Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome, declaring Starsailor to be the next big thing. The narcotic effect of imagining a fat, naked man to be resplendently clothed is obviously bound to linger.
Any child with eyes could see, of course, that Starsailor were, and remain, a bunch of hacks that copied as much of Jeff Buckley‘s sound as was necessary to cash in on the memory of that most talented man. Then, without any sense of shame, they went and nicked the name of one his Dad’s albums for their own.
So, roll on All The Plans and a fresh set of grotesqueries. This is an album we are supposed to be very excited about because Ronnie Wood of the The Rolling Stones was on hand to play guitar for the recording sessions in Henley. So they were working with the grandaddy of the middle-class mid-life crisis, in England’s capital of middle-class mid-life crisis. Sounds promising.
Opener and first single Tell Me It’s Not Over is a predictable wash of cliches: “If you love someone don’t throw it away”. Frontman James Walsh recently gibbered that, “It’s got a massive drum beat, reminiscent of Doves and U2.” Stop laughing back there! He’s not wrong, actually. The problem is that there’s a massive difference between ‘reminiscent’ and blatant copycat-ism.
In a nutshell, that’s the whole problem with Starsailor. They don’t have a sound of their own. They just rip off what they like of other acts and then reduce it to the lowest common denominator. All The Plans is full of driving piano, anthemic guitar, and a bit of swagger. They owe a huge debt to Coldplay, Ocean Colour Scene, and Oasis which, in itself, must be quite galling.
Then there are the lyrics, which are uniformly as shallow as a basin. “Is love just a big mistake, just a risk that we all take?”,Walsh splutters on The Thames. You Never Get What You Deserve is a by-the-numbers take on the perils of fame, including… drugs! Gasp! CueStars & Stripes, in which Walsh tells us all about American protectionism and xenophobia, fulfilling all the criteria necessary to prove that he is too stupid to see past the immediately obvious.
Of course, it is the Emperor who is always the most enamoured with the illusion. So, as long as Starsailor think they are really, really great, they’ll probably keep releasing records. On closer Safe At Home, Walsh moans, “There’s still a cloud, hangs over my head, can’t block it out, I’m going to bed”. Hold on to the hope that All ThePlans flops spectacularly enough to convince Starsailor to do just that.